Russia upgrading Pacific submarine fleet, sub bases and other nuclear forces and facilities

On Sept 30, 2015, the first new Russian Borei-class (sometimes spelled Borey) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) arrived at the Rybachiy submarine base near Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Several Borei SSBNs are expected to follow over the next few years to replace the remaining outdated Delta-III SSBNs currently operating in the Pacific.

The arrival of the Borei SSBNs marks the first significant upgrade of the Russian Pacific Fleet SSBN force in more than three decades.

In preparation for the arrival of the new submarines, satellite pictures show upgrades underway to submarine base piers, missile loading piers, and nuclear warhead storage facilities.

At nearly 580 feet, the Borei is a large vessel, but the use of advanced technologies, including pump-jet propulsion from its nuclear reactor, also makes it substantially quieter than its relatively noisy predecessors, posing a challenge for U.S. Navy hunter-killer submarines.

Each Borei will have a crew of 107, of which 55 will be officers. With the inclusion of research and development costs, the Borei will cost about $700 million per boat, far less than a comparable U.S. Ohio class submarine, the costs for which are about $2 billion.

Commercial satellite imagery indicates the Russian navy has also has been upgrading support infrastructure at its Pacific Fleet facilities. ussia is expected to bring at least eight Borei class submarines into operational status by 2020.

There is a 14 page report on the 2015 status of Russia’s nuclear force modernization Russia is modernizing its strategic and nonstrategic nuclear warheads. It currently has 4,500 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,780 strategic warheads are deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. Russia deploys an estimated 311 ICBMs that can carry approximately 1,050 warheads. It is in the process of retiring all Soviet-era ICBMs and replacing them with new systems, a project that according to Moscow is about halfway complete. The outgoing ICBMs will be replaced by the SS-27 Mod. 1 (Topol-M), the SS-27 Mod. 2, two follow-on versions of the SS-27 which are still in development, and a new liquid-fuel heavy ICBM. Following technical problems, the Russian Navy is also rolling out its new Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. RussiaÕs upgrades to its nuclear arsenal help justify modernization programs in other nuclear weapon states, and raise questions about Russia’s commitment to its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Several nuclear-related facilities near Petropavlovsk are being upgraded.

Upgrade of Rybachiy Submarine Base Pier

Similar to upgrades underway at the Yagelnaya Submarine Base to accommodate Borei-class SSBNs in the Northern Fleet on the Kola Peninsula, upgrades visible of submarine piers at Rybachiy Submarine Base are probably in preparation for the arrival of the first Borei SSBN – the Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) in the near future

Commercial satellite images from 2014 show a new large pier under construction. The pier includes six large pipes, probably for steam and water to maintain the submarines and their nuclear reactors while in port.